It’s Official

Last week, we closed on our property in Tennessee. It’s now ours! Part of me still can’t believe it, especially when we went there the following day and it’s even more beautiful than I remembered (that photo does not even come close to doing it justice). We met with our builder the afternoon we closed. He’s a friend of a friend, and we really liked him. He gave us a tour through his current WIP, a 12,000-foot monstrosity being built for a fraction-of-a-1%er who’s moving there from California. Amazing! And a major testament to our builder’s (and his trades peoples’) work. He wants to start on our house when he’s done with the current project, probably in April or May. Things are moving along!

What I’ve been reading: Not going to name the book today, because I don’t have much good to say about it. I picked it up because it’s based on a computer game I recently got sucked into, and it was free. The only reason I finished it was because it was short (a novella), and there were just enough references from the game to keep it mildly interesting. Otherwise, the poorly-developed characters and lack of depth would have had me putting the book down a couple chapters in. There was also an amateurish feel to the writing. I don’t expect a literary masterpiece–I read mostly genre fiction, and simple, workmanship writing is normally fine with me, but this was lacking something more that I can’t quite put my finger on. Most of the reviews mentioned things like this, so it wasn’t just me. On to better things!

ROW80Logo175

Writing/ROW80 update: As you might guess from my first paragraph, my mind has not been on the writing. Also, we’ve been a bit under the weather here–between our closing, meeting with the builder, and a little walking over the land in Tennessee, we spent most of our weekend there taking it easy at the hotel. Nothing major, just a bad cold/mild flu that took a while to let up. We’re better now, but it’s been slow going. So no, not much has happened on the writing front, other than me working through a couple more sections of The Story Toolkit. I’m not expecting much more this week, as I have to collect all our tax stuff for the accountant, whom I have an appointment with next weekend. But I’ll do my best to spend a little time on The Story Toolkit each day, and see how that works.

What about you–read any stinkers lately? Or how about good books? Have you and your family managed to keep healthy? Seems like everyone I know has had that cold going around here! What else has been going on with you, and how are you doing on whatever goals you might have? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Misfit Monday: Why I Stopped Reading

As an author, every time I put a book down, I try to learn from the experience. By analyzing why didn’t that book work for me, I can hopefully pick up some tips on what not to do in my own books in the future.

It’s also something fun to discuss with readers (again, to learn) and useful to discuss with authors. Not the author who wrote the book in question, although that’s exactly what ended up happening last time I wrote a post like this. No, it’s honestly just for my own learning. I don’t want to call anyone out – last time, the author recognized her book, and she was a top-notch, class act, but the next one might not be. So with that in mind, I’m going to leave out the details, and focus on the problems.

I’d run across this book a few times and it looked like something I might enjoy, so I downloaded the sample. And boy am I glad I just got the sample, because I couldn’t even get through that. Actually, I caught myself starting to skim by page 2.

I can’t dig a book with too much dumping – of background information and baggage, that is

It wasn’t badly written. The author has a firm command of language, and I didn’t notice any problems with grammar, spelling, typos, or bad formatting (and note that some of the worst formatting problems come from the big publishers). S/he also had a good grasp on point-of-view, and evoking sympathy for the characters. But it just wasn’t enough to draw me in. It took a couple chapters for me to figure out why, but once I did, it was face-palmingly obvious: those two chapters were full of backstory dumps, repetition, and cliche situations.

Quite a bit of information was repeated, sometimes twice, as if the author wasn’t confident enough in the reader and had to give us a nudge, nudge, get it? There were also repeated words and phrases to the point that I once saw the echo phrase three times on one page – and that’s on my Android phone. It was so bad it got a song stuck in my head. It had some other problems too, but the repetition and infodumps were the main reason I stopped reading.

Who knows, maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m just pickier, being a writer myself, and one who’s been at this thing for years (I’ve been writing seriously since 1999, and messing around with writing since I was a kid). Romance novels are especially prone to backstory dumps – big, long explanations or flashbacks into a character’s past – given that the main conflict in a romance novel is between the female and male lead, and it’s often this kind of emotional baggage that keeps the characters apart for most of the book. And since it’s such a common issue, it’s one that many romance-specific craft workshops and articles touch on. So maybe I’m more sensitive to it because of this.

In the author’s defense, my early efforts had these problems too, so maybe it’s just early work (it may or may not be – OTOH, some people never learn). Either way, eliminating repetition and the other issues are all skills that can be developed.

What do you think? Have you put any books down recently? Have you ever put a book down because it was too cliched, repetitious, or had too much backstory or worldbuilding infodumps that stop the forward action? If you’re a writer, did your early work have these problems?

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.